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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11932

Mr SECKER (5:57 PM) —Yes, I do have the pleasure and the honour and the duty to represent all of the Murray River in South Australia. I also represent the Lower Lakes. I represent the Coorong and Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina—they are not the ‘Coorong lakes’, as the Prime Minister wrongly called them earlier in the year in this parliament—and I am very concerned that the South Australian water minister is now seeking permission to flood the Lower Lakes with sea water. That will be irreversible. If that ever happens, it can never return to what it was. It will kill the lakes. I truly hope that the minister will reject that proposal. It is not necessary; it is not for the health of the Lower Lakes. It concerns me that here we are on the same day waving a white flag to inundating the Lower Lakes with sea water and at the same time giving the green light to stealing water from the Murray.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, in his contribution to this debate, continually said that the Howard government did nothing about the Murray-Darling system. It is only the fact that there were 94 gigalitres saved from the Murray-Goulburn system that this water is now available to the Victorian government. It is not for some future proposal, where they could argue the toss that if they saved 300 gigalitres, for example, through efficiencies and better infrastructure they could use one-quarter of that. The Victorian government is proposing to use all of those 94 gigalitres of water and pipe it to Melbourne. That will be a repeat of the mistake that we made in South Australia with the Loxton rehabilitation scheme. We piped everything under pressure and saved about 45 gigalitres. What did state Labor do? Instead of returning to the river the water saved through the Living Murray initiative, it sold it to the Barossa and Clare areas. I am sure they were very happy about that, but the fact is that it was the wrong decision and we should learn from that wrong decision and not repeat it in Victoria.

The Howard government did a lot about saving water through better infrastructure. The Howard government proposed the $10 billion plan which I was very confident would save the Murray in time. Now we have a government that are prepared to allow the Victorian government to use that water for their own supply, when the Victorian government could not get their act into gear to build reservoirs or desalination plants or to recycle water or recycle stormwater. The state government is being protected by the federal government through this scheme, and they are quite prepared to let it go on. Let the Victorian government, if they want to in the future, put in a proper scheme like we did in Loxton and argue the toss about getting a share of the savings. But do not let it take any of the 94 gigalitres saved under the Howard government’s infrastructure upgrades. I repeat: the only reason that there are water savings to use in the north-south pipeline is the Howard government. One day I hope the minister will recognise that the Howard government did quite a bit and was prepared to make an even further commitment with the $10 billion plan.

Unfortunately, we are now in the position where not one dollar of the $6 billion set aside for infrastructure upgrades has been spent. In 12 months, not one dollar has been spent by the Rudd Labor government on improving infrastructure. That is the only way you can have a balanced approach to ensuring that we in this country have food security and better use our water—that is, produce more crop per drop. We have a government that has failed miserably. (Time expired)

Question put:

That Senate amendments (2) to (8), (10), (11) and (13) to (15) be disagreed to.